By Brannon Howse
The Scripture: He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
The Twist: People manipulate 1 John 4:8 to conclude such ideas as this: “Well, my god would not send anyone to hell because my god is a god of love.”
My response to people who use this twist is that “what you say is true for your god because your god is a figment of your imagination.” The god these people are talking about is as fictitious as if they had molded him from wood, wax, or stone. He’s a god of the imagination. So anything can be thought to be true of that god—including that he would never send anyone to hell—but, of course, that doesn’t mean it is true.
To be clear, the God of the Bible doesn’t send people to hell, either. People reject Christ, and in a sense, we can say they go to hell because they choose hell. They choose not to repent of their sins and place their faith and trust in God.
God is such a loving God, in fact, that He placed the moral law on the hearts and minds of everyone so we would know what He expects. Romans 1-3 makes this very clear, and it means everyone is without excuse on the Day of Judgment. Romans 3:19 summarizes:
Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
And Romans 1:18-21 lays out the whole story:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
People have no excuse because the moral law is in their hearts and minds, and it is the same moral law that reflects God’s character and nature.
Think of the Ten Commandments as an abridged version of the moral law. The Commandments reflect who God is:
Thou shalt not murder.
Thou shalt not steal.
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
We all know these things are wrong because God has placed His moral law inside each of us. That’s why Romans says people are without excuse on the Day of Judgment.
The moral law is one way we see that God is a loving God. He wanted us to know right from wrong and to understand who He is and what His character and nature are like, so He placed the moral law on our consciences. “Con” means with and “science” means knowledge. People sin with the knowledge they have offended a holy and just God. That’s how loving He is. It’s only fair that He would let us know what He expects.
General revelation also shows us God’s love. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). Creation clearly testifies that there is a Creator. It didn’t just happen by chance. Paul makes this point on Mars Hill, using creation as he evangelizes the stoics (the New Agers of his day) and the secular humanists. He explains to them about the loving God who made Himself known as God in a general sense through creation.
People will say, though, “But God is a God of love. Therefore, God would never send someone to hell.” God is a God of love, but God is also just, and as a result He must judge sin. Many people today, like Joel Osteen who preaches “Your Best Life Now” and other false Gospel messages, want only to talk about the love of God and never God’s wrath and judgment.
I heard a preacher say once that “God’s great love and mercy has no contextual meaning without God’s great wrath.” Yes, as a believer I serve a God of love. He loved me so much, that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die. Romans explains that, and so does John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Many pastors today talk about God’s love, grace, and mercy, but they never talk about God’s wrath. Grace and mercy are extended only to those who repent. John 3:36 says, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
You say, “I want to avoid the wrath of God.” That’s good. To avoid it, though, requires that you acknowledge your sinfulness, repent of your sin, turn from your sins, and place your faith and trust in Christ alone. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” You want to be safe from God’s wrath? Then put your faith in Jesus Christ, His death, His burial, and in His resurrection.
Revelation 19:15 reveals the nature of this wrathful God:
Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
So don’t let someone tell you, “God is a God of love, so He would never send someone to hell.” Or the corollary, “My God is a God of love that would never allow anything bad to happen to someone.” Sorry, friends. We live in a sinful, fallen world, where there is a great deal of evil and many, many sad things that happen. The Bible is clear that one day, every man will give an account to God, and all men will be judged. Romans 8:28 also makes it clear for Christians that all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Don’t buy the lie that God won’t allow anyone to go to hell. He has offered everyone the possibility of avoiding hell, and He loved us so much that He sent His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him—places faith and trust in Him and repents of sins—will pass from judgment into life. That’s real love.
Copyright 2014 ©Brannon Howse. This content is for Situation Room members and is not to be duplicated in any form or uploaded to other websites without the express written permission of Brannon Howse or his legally authorized representative.